From the classroom to the field

From the classroom to the field

Wow! Summer in Saskatchewan has flown by once again. I was fortunate to spend my summer travelling the province to tag and track freshwater sport fish as part of research with the Saskatchewan Sportfish Research Group (update post coming!). While summer has come and gone, I have to say, my fall has been quite exciting! I am very happy to share that this fall I accepted an instructor position at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

For those unfamiliar with Saskatchewan Polytechnic, you can visit their website by clicking here. I work within the School of Natural Resources and Built Environment at the Prince Albert Campus. My role is to deliver various fisheries / aquatic courses to students in the Integrated Resource Management (IRM) program. It is hard to believe we are already a month into the semester, feels like I stepped foot into my new office only yesterday!

One of the perks for working for Saskatchewan Polytechnic is that I get to deliver applied (hands on) courses. So far my IRM class has undertaken two extensive field courses where they learned how to complete various fisheries surveys, use fisheries equipment and gain experiencing work in a fisheries field team. My hope is that the IRM students now have the bug for fisheries! (I clearly have it). If you are interested in what we learned in the field, keep reading!

Aquatics Camp at Hannin Creek Education Facility

We kicked off the semester by diving into aquatic camp at the Hannin Creek Education Facility (HCEF). HCEF is operated through a partnership with Saskatchewan Polytechnic and the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation. This camp is outfitted with bunks, a rec room / kitchen, and spaces for outdoor and indoor classroom activities, and is situated on the beautiful Hannin Creek on the north side of Candle Lake. The location of the camp gives our students direct access to Candle Lake, via a short boat ride down the creek. The camp presents instructor’s like myself with endless opportunities to teach hands-on, field skills. For more information on the camp click here.

During aquatics camp, the IRM students participated in a mix of classroom lectures and field exercises over 5 days. They learned how to conduct water quality assessments, zooplankton and benthic invertebrate sampling, gillnetting, seining, and fish processing according to scientific standards. We were fortunate to have another fisheries biologist, Mark Duffy from the Ministry of Environment join us for our fish processing lesson. As part of the course they also learned how to operate small boats and outboard motors. We spent our last day conducting a Rapid Bio-assessment on a tributary of White Gull Creek. Here the students mapped a variety of stream habitat and physical characteristics as well as calculated stream flow. It was a beautiful day spent on a beautiful creek – who could ask for more?

Electrofishing on the Little Red River

One of the first subjects I teach in my “advanced aquatic survey” course is something call electrofishing. Electrofishing involves capturing fish with the use of an electrical circuit. Are you wondering…wait… water and electricity don’t mix!? You are correct. However, when done right, electrofishing is completely safe for the crew and for the fish (electrofishing is a non-lethal sampling method).

As part of this applied electrofishing training, the students must participate in a field day where they learn to operate the efishing equipment, practice safety measures, and handle captured fish. We were very fortunate to have two other local fisheries biologists, Darcy Lightle and Al Young, join us to share their experiences on electrofishing. We had a great day on the Little Red River learning the ropes of efishing with Smith-root backpack efishers and successfully sampling native species including Longnose Dace, Common Shiner, and River Shiner.

Now back in the lab the students will be processing all of the samples they collected during their field courses and formalizing this data into reports (the real fun part!)

That’s it for this update! Perhaps stating the obvious – I am now located in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan (previously Regina). If you are in the area and interested in the work we do, or potentially joining the IRM program in the future, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Happy fall everyone!

Above photos were used with permission, any re-use is strictly prohibited. 

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